Monday, January 7, 2008

A Black Sunday in International Cricket

We used to use the term “Black Friday to tell when tragedies happens on a Friday. But I would say, yesterday was a Black Sunday in the world of International Cricket. What an eventful Sunday!!! The final day of the Sydney Cricket match between India and Australia. It was a tough day for the Indians to fight against the total that put forward by the mighty Aussies to save the test match. The result was not only heartbreaking for the players, but for all the cricket loving people. Indians were bowled out when 1 over and 1 ball remaining. When India lost their last wicket in the form of Ishanth Sharma, Aussies were celebrating, but Indian dressing room was so calm and quiet. We could see some angry faces rather than the desperate ones.

After losing in the Melbourne Test, India was so keen to win this test match and level the series. Things have gone right for Kumble and boys when the world champions were 134 for 6 on the first day. But Aussies went on scoring more that 450 runs before they bowled out. In reply, Indians have done well and scored more than 500 runs to get a lead of 70 runs. Superb tons from Sachin and Laxman have put India in the Driving seat. Well crafted half centaury from Ganguly and fighting fifties from Dravid and Bhaaji also contributed to Indian batting. In reply, Aussies has batted up to 400 runs and gave a competitive total of 333 on the last day of the match. Though Indian batsmen fought their best to save the match, but failed to do so.
Lots of controversies are currently going on related to the second test match. Umpire’s Cheat Game, Bhaaji convicted for Racial Abuse and non-spirited play from the so-called world champions. Let’s come to the points one by one.

India c Benson b Buckner. This is the headline of an Indian National daily today. What made them to write such a headline? The umpiring has been pathetic in this second test match. Normally the two field umpires commit mistakes, but interestingly, even the Third umpire have made big mistake in this “historic” match. This was started on the first day, when Buckner gave a life for the Aussies skipper Ricky Pointing, when he tried to leg glance a ball from Ganguly, but ended up in Dhoni’s gloves. The bat has made the impact with the ball, far away from the body and snicko meter was giving a high reading, only Buckner didn’t hear that sound. All the Indian players went up with the enthusiasm but Buckner denied the appeal. Next was Benson’s turn. When Andrew Symonds nicked a short pitch delivery from Ishanth Sharma, which safely reached in Dhoni’s gloves, Benson said No to that appeal. The reply and the snicko meter suggest that was a clear dismissal. The immediate reaction from the Symonds will indicate that he has nicked in that ball. When Ricky Ponting dragged a ball from Harbhajan Singh on to the pads, Benson has given that out. Later when, Symonds was stumped by Dhoni in Kumble’s ball, umpires have given the same for Third Umpire’s decision. This time the blunder was from third umpire, who used to scrutinize the dismissals using the video replays from various angles to determine whether the same is out or not. After viewing from all the angles, third umpire has given that not out, where the reply clearly shows that his foot was in the air, when Dhoni knocked off the bails. This was happened in the history of world cricket for the first time. On the next day morning, when Dhoni stumped Symonds again in Harbhajan’s ball, umpire Bucker didn’t even refer that to third umpire by saying that his foot was inside the crease. Again the reply shows that, he was outside the crease. What’s the next result? Andrew Symonds, who was out in a lower score went on making an unbeaten 162, which helped Aussies to put up a huge first innings score. But that was just a beginning. When India went out to bat, opener Jaffer was being cleaned up by Brett Lee through a magnificent Yorker. But the replay shows that, it was a no ball, which umpire didn’t notice. In the second Innings, when India came to bat to save the match, India lost 3 quick wickets. In between, Dravid has been dropped in the slip by Symonds, in Johnson’s ball. But replay shows that, he was over stepped, hence that was a no ball. But the umpires didn’t see and called that a no ball. Lucky he was dropped there, otherwise it would have been another dirty decision by the umpires. But Dravid and Ganguly were rescuing India with the help of a brilliant partnership. Umpires cheated India again, when Dravid’s caught behind was given by Buckner. Dravid was so amazed to see the decision. The reply has clearly shown that the ball has nicked the pads and the bat was no where near to the ball. Ganguly continued the rescue process with the help of Dhoni. But, Benson interfered that by giving him out on an uncompleted catch by Clarke. When Aussies players appealed and Benson was not sure about the verdict, he immediately asked Aussies skipper, Ricky Ponting and declared that out. TV replays are showing that Ricky Ponting was raising his point finger to given that out, just like a fourth umpire. But in reality, the ball has been grassed and the catch was incomplete. These two decisions have really affected Indian’s fight to survive in the series. In simple words, Umpires have gifted a test match to Australia. While Indians were complaining about the poor umpiring display, Aussies are backing the umpires. Michele Clarke said, umpires were pretty consistent. In a way it was correct, as they were consistently giving wrong decisions.

In the press conference after the match, Indian skipper Kumble has commented that, in the match only one team has played with the right spirit. Those who have seen the match can easily understand which team he was pointing to. Obviously it’s Australia. They way they have played the game was disgusting. They were sledging and abusing the Indian players. They were making unwanted and excessive appeals. A few incidents that happened on the field clearly indicate the attitude of the Aussies players. They were trying to disturb the concentration of the batsmen by abusing them. On the last day, When Dhoni defended a ball from Symonds which went high; Ponting who was at the silly point, ran backwards and tried caught the ball and appealed. But Benson didn’t give the catch saying that, that’s of the pads. In the television reply its clear that, Ponting has not completed the catch. He grabbed the ball but grounded it immediately. Still he was appealing for the catch. When the catch was denied, he showed his desperation as if a clear dismissal has been denied. When Dravid has given out, three players in the field knew that it’s not from the bat. One is the bowler Symonds, then Dravid and the wicket keeper Gilchrist. Gilchrist, who was known for his gentlemen ship, didn’t show that this time. He went up immediately to appeal for that. That was a brilliant display of appealing. Later when Ganguly was dismissed, Clark took a grassed catch and appealed. Interestingly, that catch wasn’t complete. Still the whole team has appealed. The way the Aussies players have behaved in the field shows their arrogance. They were in the field, not with the right spirit. Moreover, they have provoked Harbhajan Singh while he was batting. They never expect Harbhajan to play such a lovely innings and just to disturb his concentration, they started sledging against him. In a press conference, Ricky Ponting has claimed that he is a person of integrity and what he has done is right according to his conscience. If he has that integrity, why didn’t he walked off when he nicked that ball, instead of standing there in the crease. Why did he claim that catch, which he clearly knew, which was grounded? This is a clear contradiction to what he has done and what he has told.

Ricky Ponting and his team have made a complaint against the ‘turbinator’ Hrabhajan Singh that he has racially abused Andrew Symonds in the field. They have complained to the match referee and after the match, match referee conducted the hearing. After hearing to Australian players, Mike Proctor has banned Harbhajan Singh from 3 test matches. If we look at the incident, it’s quite a normal one. Match referee has taken a right decision against the person who has misbehaved in the field. But, just see how well they have crafted the story! Everyone knew that Harbhajan has been troubling the Australians for quite a long time, especially Hayden, Ponting and Clarke. In this series also, Ponting has been dismissed by Harbhajan on 3 occasions. The Aussies players have purposefully gone to Harbhajan and provoked him by abusing him. Normally he reacted by saying something. They made it a big issue immediately. Symonds has provoked him, but he didn’t get any ban or fine. During the ICC hearing, Ponting, Hayden, Clarke, Gilchrist were present. They all told that, they have heard Symonds abusing. In the same test match, all these players have been proven to be non-trustworthy, still Mike Proctor believed him. Also he didn’t seek the help of any video clips. Video replays never showed what Hayden has written in his explanation. From India’s side, Sachin and Kumble were present along with the tour manager and the media manager. Sachin has confirmed that no such incidents have happened in the field. Such a reputed player like Sachin has confirmed. He is known for his gentlemen ship in the field. Still Proctor has taken words from the Aussies players as they were majority. That itself is a ridiculous, because, they are accusing the incident to be happened while India is batting. Only Sachin was present there other than Harbhajan Singh. Obviously, Aussies will be the majority there. Still Proctor has taken their words. To defend his decision to ban Bhaaji, Proctor has told that as a “South African” he understood the word ‘racism’. But interestingly, in South Africa, it was white who have shown racial discrimination towards black and Proctor belongs to the white. I never understood that, how he came to know about the word meaning of “racism”? India has a great history of fighting against the racism, even before the independence. Our father of nation, Gandhiji was a victim of racism when he went to SA. Considering all these facts, how can these Australians tell that, Bhaji has racially abused Symonds. It is unbelievable. Proctor has made this decision even though there was no circumstantial evidence against Bhaaji.

In 2003, Proctor was officiating a match between Pakistan and Bangladesh. In which Rashid Latif, the Pakistan captain has appealed for an incomplete catch. He has been banned for 5 test matches by Proctor, but nothing has happened in the case of Ricky Ponting, who claimed a catch which was clearly incomplete. This is a clear proof against the double standards of ICC. They are harsh towards the sub-continent teams, while mild towards others. It’s an embarrassing thing to see that two yard sticks have been used to measure different people. It was disgusting to see Australian commentators, Ian Chapel and Michele Slater were desperately trying to defend, Ponting’s team and the umpires. After the match, Gavaskar was furious like anything on their comments. And a strong debate has happened on this as well. The crowd and some of the Aussies press persons also responded that Australia has an undeserved match. By winning this match, they have equaled there 16 match win record. As the former Australian captain Steve Waugh said, this test will be remembered for all the wrong decisions taken. Also Indian Cricket Team has garnered lots of international support for the treatment they have received in Australia. Former Somerset captain and one of the most respected cricket writers in the world - Peter Roebuck has called for the head of Aussie captain Ricky Ponting. In Sydney Morning Herald Roebuck quotes, ” Ricky Ponting must be sacked as captain of the Australian cricket team. If Cricket Australia cares a fig for the tattered reputation of our national team in our national sport, it will not for a moment longer tolerate the sort of arrogant and abrasive conduct seen from the captain and his senior players over the past few days. Beyond comparison it was the ugliest performance put up by an Australian side for 20 years. The only surprising part of it is that the Indians have not packed their bags and gone home. There is no justice for them in this country, nor any manners.” This clearly shows, how the world has started supporting Indian Team during this crisis.

Now BCCI has decided to hold the series for a while till the ban on Harbhajan Singh will be lifted off. All the BCCI persons are standing behind the team to support them in this crisis period. The team is united and clearly given the message to BCCI that, they are not ready to play without Harbhajan, as they are sure that he is innocent. Sachin is the person who has conveyed the message to BCCI head Sharath Pawar. The whole country is asking BCCI to call back the team, though former cricketers are urging to continue the series. But it’s a known fact that BCCI can’t take such decision to call back the team at this point of time. There are many reasons behind this. First one is the financial liability that board should handle, if we cancel a tour. This will come around 8 Crore Indian rupees, which is not a big deal for the most financially safe cricket association of the world. Reason number two is, Sharath Pawar is not willing to make an issue with ICC right now. He is planning to become the ICC chief by the end of coming June. If this became a huge issue, this will definitely affect his chances of becoming the ICC chief. The third reason is related to the launch of IPL (Indian Premier League). BCCI has signed so many Aussies players including Ponting, McGrath, and Warne etc. BCCI is planning make them the brand ambassadors of IPL. If this issue causes a clash with the Aussies Cricket Board, they won’t be coming to India and IPL will become a failure. This will clearly give an upper hand for ICL. BCCI don’t want that to be happened. Now clearly BCCI is a dilemma. Let’s predict, what will happen in this matter. Indians have complained against Brad Hogg. Match referee may suspend him for 3 matches as well. When BCCI sit for compromise, they will lift of both Bhaaji’s and Hogg’s ban. Also they may remove Buckner from rest of the series. And India will continue the tour. But I don’t think that, it’s a long term solution for the same. It’s only a short term solution. The long term solution should be to take necessary steps to avoid such terrible umpiring mistakes. Also ICC should take necessary steps to ensure the equal justice for all the players. This issue has united the whole country and the team. Let’s take all the positives from this and fight hard to reach the heights…. I wish good luck for the Indian Team…..

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